The things that had brought 173 young people to the stadium where they would receive Frankford High School diplomas on Monday were difficult — a pandemic, a city besieged by gun violence, entire school years spent looking at computer screens.

But the students were more resilient than all that.

Michael Calderone, Frankford’s principal, usually tells graduating seniors that the moment they receive their diploma marks their entrance into adulthood. But he couldn’t say that to the Class of 2022. “You were thrust into the world on March 13, 2020,” said Calderone, referring to the last day they attended in-person school before the COVID-19 lockdown. They were sophomores then.

“You were thrown right into the deep end,” Calderone said. “Your resolve and determination towards your goals allowed you to navigate those waters and still make it here.”

Across the city over the last few days, 7,500 students have marched across stages to receive Philadelphia School District diplomas.

Frankford’s ceremony, held on the school’s football field Monday after students marched up Wakeling Street behind a drum line, was full of joy.

Terrill Haigler, better known as Ya Fav Trashman — a city sanitation worker turned social media influencer and activist — was the graduation speaker. Haigler gained prominence during the pandemic when he raised thousands for personal protective equipment for his sanitation colleagues, attracting national attention, starting cleanups around the city, and even starring in a commercial for Joe Bidens presidential campaign.

Haigler had 19 jobs in multiple industries, from the time he graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts in 2007 to the day he took a job collecting trash in 2019.

“I knew that I wanted something more,” said Haigler, 32, whose sanitation route took him right past Frankford High. “I am somebody who legit found their purpose in trash.”

Haigler said he knows that some view Philadelphia schools and the children who attend them a certain way.

“The outside deems some of these children trash, failed experiments, unworthy,” Haigler said in an interview.

But that’s not the reality.

“You guys are amazing,” Haigler told the graduates Monday morning. “You guys are unicorns. There’s no one else like you. I really want to let you know how dope you are.”

Haigler had a surprise for the graduates: He gifted class salutatorian Wenhao Yang and valedictorian Hyllamour Manasse their own LLCs, “so even if Plan A doesn’t work out, you’ll have Plan B right in the pocket.”

In the crowd, parents and grandparents and aunties whooped and hollered, joy overflowing.

“Don’t get weary son!” one mother shouted. “You did it!”

After the graduates left the stadium, they shared hugs and posed for photos, wiping away tears and smiling widely.

The moment was especially sweet for Hailey Soto, 19. Soto had to stay an extra year because remote school felt impossible, as she juggled virtual classes and caring for her son Kyree, who’s now 2.

“It was so hard,” said Soto, who decorated her yellow cap with a message: ”50% of teen moms don’t make it to graduation. Not me tho.”

Ashlynn Torres spun around, raising her hands in the air, after she collected her diploma.

“I am so proud of me!” said Torres, 18.

Much is resting on the graduates’ shoulders, their principal told them.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated,” Calderone said. “We are all counting on you to make this world a better place for future generations.”